When did first base become such a mystical defensive position? Back in the day, it seemed like any corner outfielder could come in and play first. All you have to do is catch the ball and step on the bag, right? Heck, even guys who played third base or even catcher could slide over and handle first. Let's look at some guys who have played 1B for the Pirates. Let's start in 1972...and move through to 2012.
Willie Stargell, Bob Robertson, Vic Davalillo, Al Oliver, Ed Kirkpatrick, Dave Parker, Bill Robinson, Jim Fergosi, Ken Macha, Bobby Tolan, Doe Boylard, John Milner, Manny Sanguillen, (1980) Kurt Bevacqua, Bill Madlock, Jason Thompson, Gary Alexander, Willie Montanez, Richie Hebner, Eddie Vargas, Brian Harper, Lee Mazzilli, Gene Tenace, Benny Distefano, Jim Morrison, Bill Almon, Sid Bream, Tony Pena, Bobby Bonilla, Mike Diaz, Darnell Coles, Andy Van Slyke, Orestes Destrade, Dave Hostetler, Randy Milligan, Ken Oberkfell, Gary Redus, Jeff King, Glenn Wilson, (1990) Carmelo Martinez, Lloyd McClendon, Orlando Merced, Tom Prince, Gary Varsho, John Wehner, Kevin Young, Rich Aude, Tom Foley, Ben Shelton, Brian Hunter, Lance Parrish, Mark Johnson, Freddy Garcia, Keith Osik, Mark Smith, Dale Sveum, Eddie Williams, Tim Laker, Doug Strange, Brant Brown, (2000) Mike Benjamin, Ivan Cruz, Alex Hernandez, Alex Ramirez, John Vander Wal, Andy Barkett, Adam Hyzdu, Rob Mackowiak, Craig Wilson, Carlos Rivera, Randall Simon, Matt Stairs, Daryle Ward, Brad Eldred, Ty Wigginton, Sean Casey, Ryan Doumit, Jose Hernandez, Xavier Nady, Joe Randa, Adam LaRoche, Steve Pearce, Josh Phelps, Chris Gomez, Doug Mientkiewicz, Eric Hinske, Garrett Jones, (2010) John Bowker, Jeff Clement, Bobby Crosby, Andy LaRoche, Lyle Overbay, Brandon Wood, Derrek Lee and we can probably add Casey McGehee and Nick Evans to the list this year.
There it is, 40 years of guys who have played 1B for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Of those, only Stargell, Robertson, Thompson and maybe Kevin Young stand out as regulars. It just amazes me that in the 70s and 80s we could take a guy like Willie Stargell or a John Milner and make them play 1B. Heck we did it with Lee Mazzilli and Gary Redus in the 80s, but about midway through the 90s, suddenly the vast majority of the 1B time was given to guys who were brought up and groomed to be first basemen. Now suddenly, "We can't use Jones at first base, he's a butcher at first." Or when we see a guy like say...Josh Willingahm on the market we think, "No, we can use him at first base." Really? Why not? We won division titles with Orlando Merced at 1B in the 90s? And I'm not really talking about the offensive production. I know Merced and Bonds, Bonilla, Van Slyke and great pitching around him. I get that things change, but I guess I just don't get the concern over working with a guy to learn the position.
Or maybe I just wanted to make a post where I could include Adam Hyzdu.
Or maybe I'm bored....bring on spring training.